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README.md

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Progressive Web Apps for Firefox

Release Users Rating License Repositories Packagecloud.io DEB Packagecloud.io RPM

A tool to install, manage and use Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in Mozilla Firefox.

Description

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are web apps that use web APIs and features along with progressive enhancement strategy to bring a native app-like user experience to cross-platform web applications. Although Firefox supports many of Progressive Web App APIs, it does not support functionality to install them as a standalone system app with an app-like experience.

This project creates a custom modified Firefox runtime to allow websites to be installed as standalone apps and provides a console tool and browser extension to install, manage and use them.

Usage

TLDR: Install the browser extension and follow in-browser installation instructions. Check the repository wiki for simple usage instructions.

For detailed and more technical documentation how to set up, use and develop the project, see the READMEs of the native and extension part:

Features

Current Features

  • Command-line tool to install, manage and run Progressive Web Apps in Firefox.
  • Extension to set up native programs, and install, manage and run PWAs and their profiles directly from the main Firefox browser.
  • Isolated Firefox installation and profile(s) that stores the PWAs.
  • Installed PWAs have their own start/app menu entry and taskbar icon, and live in their own window.
  • Installed PWAs have tabs and address bar for a better app-like feel.
  • Support for installing all websites as Progressive Web Apps.
  • Support for all Firefox addons/extensions and built-in Firefox features.
  • Support for automatic (user-triggered) installation and patching of installation and profile(s).

Planned Features

  • Localization of most UI elements.
  • Support for more system-related web app manifest features (once they are standardized).

Not Planned Features

  • Integration into official Firefox code. This project currently modifies the browser chrome (UI) at runtime using JS and CSS. Although this works, it is officially unsupported by Mozilla and can break with Firefox updates. To contribute features back into the official Firefox code, they would need to be implemented properly with the new chrome page and browser services. Unfortunately, this requires an almost complete rewrite of the project, and I currently don't have enough knowledge and time to do that.

  • Using the same installation profile for PWAs and normal browsing. This could make the main browser installation/profile unstable if things break. It would also prevent customizing the PWA profile to work better as a PWA profile, and installing custom addons. If you want to sync data between your main and PWA profile, I recommend using Firefox Account or a third-party sync solution.

  • Running PWAs installed as Windows APPX/MSIX packages or from Microsoft Store. They will always use Chromium-based Edge that is installed on Windows 10/11. I'm not sure if it is possible to override this. If it is not too hard and doesn't cause any problems, I may try this in the future.

  • Support for Chromium-specific APIs (Filesystem, Bluetooth, NFC, USB...). This would require forking and directly modifying the Firefox source. Also, I'm not sure if giving websites the same privileges as native apps is the best idea...

Current Limitations

These are things that I would like to fix eventually, but will currently stay, either because they are too hard to fix, or would require modifying the Firefox source. I will appreciate any help to fix them.

  • New windows become disconnected from the original PWA:

    This only applies to windows opened by PWAs (for example, using target="_blank" links or window.open), but not windows opened by a user with app/context menus, keyboard shortcuts or shift-clicking on links.

    On Windows, this means new windows will use the normal Firefox icon and probably merge with the normal Firefox shortcut in the taskbar. On Linux and macOS, this won't be so noticeable due to other issues. It will also cause them to lose the functionality of changing window colors and will always have an address bar displayed.

    This could be fixed if there is an easy way to intercept the opening of every new window, and pass it window.gFFPWASiteConfig from the original window just after it is created. I implemented this for some windows (mainly those opened by users), but don't know how to do it for all windows.

    This problem is tracked as issue #79.

  • All PWAs are merged with the first PWA that was opened (Linux & macOS):

    When some PWA is already running, all newly launched PWAs will merge with it and remain merged until all of them are closed. This will cause the app menu to display all PWAs as part of the first PWA that was launched, with its icon and desktop actions (if any).

    Users can prevent this by installing each PWA into a different profile.

    • Linux:

      This cannot be fixed easily. The native part of the project currently launches Firefox with the --class and --name arguments, which should set the WM_CLASS property of the window to the web app ID. However, because all Firefox processes in the same profile are connected together, all windows have WM_CLASS of the first web app. Fixing this would probably require modifying Firefox C++ code. Check this comment and related discussions for ideas and possible solutions to fix this.

      This problem is tracked as issue #80 and bug 1747722 on Bugzilla.

    • macOS:

      Apple only allows a process to be associated with a single application at all times. Perhaps this could be solved by using an IPC link between a host process and the main Firefox runtime process, the same way the Firefox parent process handles its content processes. This is just a wild theory though and has to be investigated further. See this comment for more.

      This problem is tracked as issue #81.

  • Extension cannot detect the native program when using sandboxed Firefox (Linux: Snap & Flatpak):

    When using Firefox distributed as a Snap or Flatpak package (for example, the default Firefox installation in Ubuntu 21.10), the extension cannot detect the native program that is used. This is because Snap and Flatpak packages are sandboxed and cannot access/run other programs which is needed for Native Messaging API. This cannot be fixed until Native Messaging API gets support to work in sandboxed browsers (Snap and Flatpak).

    The workaround for this is to uninstall Snap/Flatpak-based Firefox and install a normal DEB package instead. See #76 for more details.

Contributors & Sponsors

Thanks to packagecloud.io for sponsoring this project and providing us a free hosting for our DEB and RPM packages!

Private NPM registry and Maven, RPM, DEB, PyPi and RubyGem Repository · packagecloud

 

Thanks to all contributors to this project for providing help and developing features!

Contributors

 

Thanks to all package maintainers making sure the project is up-to-date on all distributions, and donors for providing financial support for the project! Finally, thanks to Mozilla for creating Firefox and making it possible to modify the UI using JavaScript!

Versioning

The project uses SemVer for versioning. For the available versions and the changelog, see the releases on this repository.

The native and extension part of the project at released tags are compatible with each other according to SemVer. The native and extension part at non-tagged commits may not be compatible with each other, because they are development versions that may not be both updated at the same time.

The project aims for compatibility with the latest stable Firefox version. It may not be compatible with the others.

License

The project is licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0. By using, redistributing, or modifying it, you must agree to the license, and the additional clauses provided below. See the LICENSE file for the full license text.

The project uses additional third-party assets and code:

  • The project logo is based on the "Fox SVG Vector" icon and the community-introduced PWA logo, both dedicated to the public domain using the CC0.

  • Browser chrome modifications were inspired by and partially derived from the xiaoxiaoflood/firefox-scripts repository on GitHub, licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0. Detailed information can be found in the respective files.

  • Browser chrome modifications partially use code derived from the black7375/Firefox-UI-Fix repository on GitHub, licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0. Detailed information can be found in the respective files.

  • Browser chrome modifications partially use code and icons derived from the original Firefox source, licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0. Detailed information can be found in the respective files.

  • Native programs contain the Metropolis Semi Bold typeface by Chris Simpson, released into the public domain using the Unlicense.

  • Windows installer contains Bootstrap Icons, licensed under the MIT License. Detailed license information can be found in the WiX configuration file.

Additional open source software will be downloaded and installed at runtime when initiated by the user:

  • Installing the runtime on Windows will install the 7-Zip if it is not already installed. The 7-Zip project is made by Igor Pavlov and licensed under the GNU LGPL license and others. This project is not affiliated with the 7-Zip project or its developers in any way.

  • Installing the runtime on any system will download the unmodified Mozilla Firefox browser and locally modify it. By using this project, you also agree to the Firefox Privacy Notice. Firefox is licensed under the Mozilla Public License 2.0. Firefox and the Firefox logo are trademarks of the Mozilla Foundation in the U.S. and other countries. This project is not affiliated with the Mozilla Foundation in any way.